February 12, 2006

Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part III

Filed under: Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 1:00 pm

It’s time for the third and probably last installment of Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You can read the first part here or the second part here.

The Good

  • The Countryside. The German countryside is just beautiful. Amazingly green, and covered in farm fields and quaint villages, it’s a supreme pleasure just to cruise through them. The Germans love their green spaces, and it shows. Most woods have hiking paths cut through them, and Germans thing nothing of a day spent wandering the woods. Sounds like my childhood.
  • Public Engineering. Now this is where the German stereotype of engineering comes into play. They love building train tracks, interstates, bridges, and other kinds of public works. And they don’t play around, either. Instead of maybe routing around that big hill in the way, they’ll just drill a several mile long tunnel straight through it. Or build some gigantic, towering bridge to cross a small valley on a rather minor highway. Maybe not the most efficient use of money, but wow, it’s impressive. And it makes getting around much easier.
  • Snow! OK, this is just a personal thing, but where I come from (North Carolina), we don’t really get snow. It’s great to actually see the white stuff on a somewhat regular basis. And hey, I’ll take snow over cold rain anyday.

The Bad

  • Interstate Signs. I’d say the German interstate system is one of the best in the world, except for one thing–the signs. Not that there aren’t enough, but they have seemingly done away with the compass. The signs don’t say “Interstate A-8, Direction North,” they say “Interstate A-8, Direction insignificant-town-no-one-has-heard-of.” If you don’t know the different towns, and what direction to go, you get lost. You practically need a co-driver just to sit there and look at a map the whole time and tell you where to go.
  • Business Practices. I don’t think Germans have ever heard of the mantra “the customer is always right.” You walk into most places around here, and they treat you just the opposite–like you need them instead of them needing you, and if you don’t like something, if you have a problem, tough. Customer service is non-existant. You get looked at funny if you ask a question or want someone to help you. Chalk it up to a cultural difference, but I don’t like it–I like knowing that a company will at least attempt to win me as a customer rather than treating me as an annoyance who needs to leave their store ASAP. Granted, many places aren’t like this–but it seems much more prevalent than in the US.
  • Lines. Germans don’t seem to have any problem queueing up into long lines for any reason at all. So in turn, many places understaff, and you end up waiting in a massive line for something small that would drive most Americans crazy. Maybe we’re just impatient. But it seems that everywhere I go, you have to wait in a long line to do anything. And no one complains, no one thinks that there has to be a better way–they just line up. I think this is related to the general European ability to tolerate massive crowds that would drive any American mad, but I’m not sure.

The Ugly

  • The Post Office. I would have thought that they would have had a bureaucratic organization like this figured out, but I was wrong. Expensive, slow, and, the worst offender–half of the time, they just decide my address doesn’t exist, sending my mail back to the sender. And when packages are sent, they like to decide you “weren’t available for pickup” when you were there waiting the whole time, necessitating waiting in the huge line at the main post office. And I’m not the only one–I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about the place.


  1. […] This post is part of a series. See the first entry here and the third entry here. […]

    Pingback by Nach Deutschland » Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part II — February 12, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  2. […] Note: This post is part of a series. See the second post here and the third entry here. […]

    Pingback by Nach Deutschland » Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — February 12, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

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